Well, the Honeymoon trip Pope Francis took the world on was quite a ride, I must say. I love the rather iconoclastic treatment of typical Vatican grandiosity, living in a sparse apartment, driving a Fiat around the streets of Rome, holding mass in juvenile detention centers, casting out demons on public streets. All extremely exciting. I mean, just wow!
But what does the guy actually believe?
So far it's been the sort of thing I think about most celebrities I like: the less I personally know about them, the more I like them. And vice-versa.
The more Pope Francis talks, the more I wish I hadn't listened. And I am not the only one. The Daily Caller has a bit of a roundup of concerned conservative voices who hear the familiar language of liberation theology and social gospel in the Pope's pronouncements. Not surprising to me, as it was the first thing I thought of when I heard we were to have a Pope from South America. Southern Baptist Russell Moore calls some of the Pope's recent comments a "theological wreck." And I cannot disagree.
But you can read through this interview and judge for yourself.
None of this really bothers me. I am a Reformed Protestant for many, many reasons, and one of them is my convictional inability to attribute infallibility to any human being or institution. Sinners are sinners. We are balance sheets, at the end of the day. There is good, bad, and ugly.
But I'm not going to re-litigate the Protestant Reformation just now.
I am going to say this: it is with sadness that I see many of my Roman Catholic friends and acquaintances exhausting themselves trying to parse and defend every single thing Francis says. Doctrinally speaking, Roman Catholicism makes a distinction between a Pope's "ex cathedra" pronouncements and all his other utterances. But seeing the amount of sheer emotional investment these people (many of whom I greatly respect) have in defending everything Francis says and does convinces me that that distinction remains in the realm of the ethereal.
Francis has sometimes clearly been misquoted and taken out of context by an agenda-driven media.
But let's be real. It is not all misquotation. And trying to make it so is wishful thinking. Defending all this is, from my admittedly Reformed perspective, a waste of energy and time.
Over the past couple of decades it has become something of a trend to convert from some form of evangelical Protestantism to Roman Catholicism. Many people, following the lead of folks like Scott Hahn, have chosen to "swim the Tiber" to Rome. Under the strong, theologically conservative and rigorous leadership of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI I think this was an easy thing to do. We'll see just how easy it is with a considerably weaker Bishop of Rome.
In the meantime, I'll just remind my friends who've swum the Tiber: the other bank is still there.
And we'll welcome you back.